As a personal trainer, when asking potential new female clients what their reasons and motivations are for starting an exercise programme, all too often the response is “I hate my body; I need you to help me make it look right”. Only to see them lose heart and motivation halfway through and fall back into their old habits because “it’s not happening fast enough”, “I’m picking up weight when I should be losing it”, “it’s too much work”, “it’s too difficult”, etc. I’m sure we could all add our own list of excuses here too.
But just stop and ponder this for a moment: Let’s forget about the fitness aspect for one second and think about the reason, “I hate my body because…….” You can fill in whatever your personal reasons are.
I will for purposes of this article use the broader example “I hate my body because I am unhealthy and unfit”. Let’s face it; the majority of us have this mind-set. I will only start loving and appreciating my body once it looks the way I want it to and functions the way I want it to, right??
Wrong, what it should read is: “I am unhealthy and unfit because I hate my body”. Before you start thinking I’ve lost my marbles consider this: Do we treat our material possessions in this manner? No, because we see the value in our expensive cars, our enormous homes, our hi-tech cellular phones, our branded clothing. We pay for it; therefore we know exactly how much it is worth, very specifically, in monetary terms. So we know the value of a material possession, and the higher the value, the more pride we take in it and the more we love it, the more we are willing to take care of it. We don’t love these things because we care for them; we care for them because we love them.
This vicious cycle of “hating my body because….” and vice versa, can only be broken when we stop to consider this wondrous creation of Allah (SWT), the human body, and recognize its true value and worth. As women, even more so, since Allah (SWT) has elevated its worth to such an extent that we have been instructed to guard it and protect it like a precious pearl in its oyster.
By reflecting for a moment on this amazing creation of Allah (SWT) and how every cell, tissue, organ and limb are brought together to function in harmony with each other according to the divine law of its Creator, we will learn to appreciate the uniqueness and wonder of this complex machine we call our physical bodies. Your heart beats tirelessly in your chest every minute of every day from the time it is formed while you are still in your mother’s womb, until the moment you take your last breath; your blood circulates tirelessly through your arteries and veins every minute of every day, transporting oxygen and vital nutrients to where they are needed, and expelling harmful toxins and waste; your lungs absorb the oxygen so critical for your survival; every organ, every cell; everything in the body functions tirelessly and obediently at Allah’s (SWT) command. Subhaanallah.
Regular exercise is vital to maintaining physical, as well as psychological and mental health and thus overall wellbeing. The internet and various fitness and wellness magazines are filled with information on the health benefits gained from a regular exercise programme; a few key points are summarised below:
Regular physical exercise promotes increased blood flow throughout the body allowing for better oxygen transportation through the system as well as improved elimination of toxins from cells and major organs, which in turn strengthens the immune system. It also optimizes the functioning of the heart, lungs, kidneys, liver, etc. Thereby reducing the severity of chronic ailments such as asthma, high blood pressure, diabetes and the like. Weight training not only increases bone density (which is important to prevent bone-related conditions such as osteoporosis in older women), but also assists in improving and correcting posture, and strengthening and improving the structure and function of joints and muscles.
One of the most obvious benefits it provides is weight loss; and for the expectant mommies, gentle, regular exercise ensures a healthy pregnancy.
People who exercise regularly sleep more soundly, resulting in a general increase in energy levels. Endorphins (loosely referred to as the “feel-good” hormone) are released during a workout, and these are responsible for the improved mood, lowered levels of stress and/or depression experienced after a workout. It also improves mental health and self-esteem; and aids in improving memory and concentration.
Our physical bodies are an Amanat (trust) from Allah (SWT) and we are tasked with looking after it to the best of our ability. The minimum gratitude we owe to our Creator is to honour this Amanat in every way possible; and this includes keeping the body fit and healthy.
Although Islam encourages us to maintain our health and physical fitness, we are also taught to practice moderation in all we do so as not to fall into sin and allow this to distract us from our religious obligations. At the end of the day, a healthier, fitter person will be less prone to the “laziness” excuse and have more energy and enthusiasm to fulfil our true purpose of worshipping Allah (SWT).
Written by: Sister Fiyona Valli